The (Not So) Secret Book
Week 4 (B): Book of Shadows
A Book of Shadows (BoS for short) is a pagan text comprised of rituals, invocations, blessings, divinatory results, and other related witchy things. My first was a spiralbound notebook with a black cover, on which I drew a triple moon pentagram with puff paint (cut me some slack, I was 13!). I’ve had many others over the years, but currently I have this beautiful blank book that I am steadily filling with spells, meditation guides, and other things:
I also have a digital Book of Shadows, which is a constantly changing document that will hopefully one day be printed as a single volume for my own use. It is a hybrid, containing correspondences and other information that has been with me since my first Book of Shadows, to recently acquired information on balancing the chakras. While my handwritten one is simply writing because I cannot draw to save my life, my digital one is filled with art that moves my spirit. By comparison to my often messy handwriting in plain black ink, the digital BoS is an explosion of color.
My written Book of Shadows is actually more like what I’ve always called a mirror book. I don’t remember when or where I learned the term “mirror book”, so if anybody recognizes it feel free to chime in. A mirror book is sort of like a witchy journal: it’s a collection of spells and invocations, just as a BoS is, but with notes on how well the spells work and what changes I might make, along with things like ritual poetry, a record of my dreams, and general thoughts on spirituality. I refer to it as my Book of Shadows, but because it’s also got elements of a mirror book, it’s really sort of both.
Because I’m a lifelong journal writer—my first journal was when I was about 6 years old—so chronicling my pagan life comes naturally. When I started reading about paganism, I wanted to reflect on the things I was reading, so I wrote notes about the books. Nowadays I include the results of any tarot card readings I do, as well as the usual spell notes and sabbat records.
As a great collector of blank books and journals, I’ve probably had ten Books of Shadows in the last fifteen years. Most of my older ones are long gone, lost to the space constraints of apartment living and the constant moving. Of course, the digital BoS has survived, in one form or another. The thing that’s been most important to me is that, like most of my tools, no one touches my Book of Shadows except for me. It’s not a secret what’s in it, for the most part, but since no one touches it, the contents have become secret by default.
What does your Book of Shadows look like? Or does your tradition mandate that you cannot discuss it?